Slavey - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Bilateral kinship, marriage, and friendship principles were central to Slavey social organization. Kinship and social distance were informally computed, and rights, duties, and obligations attenuated as distance increased in this fundamentally egalitarian society.

Political Organization. The Slavey were organized into more or less formal bands. Local bands were normally kinbased and leadership was provided by men possessing special abilities as hunters and providers along with unusual generosity. The successful hunter's obligation to distribute his kill among the local group was a basic fact of Slavey social and, ultimately, political life. The leadership of successful providers was informal and situational, and ceased when their skill diminished or they failed in their distributive obligations. Regional bands were focused on the territories they inhabited and existed as groups only when relatively large groups came together at concentrated resource sites. They lacked leaders and were not necessarily composed of local bands. The Slavey "tribe" was a nonfunctioning category of cultural and linguistic identity.

Social Control. Social sanctions were diffuse and inFormal. Gossip, the reduction of aid and support, "talking to," and avoidance or withdrawal from unpleasant persons were the norm. Perhaps the most extreme sanction was banishment. Sorcery or the threat of sorcery may have played a role in social control.

Conflict. Raiding and warfare were matters for families and local groups, not regional groups or tribes. Revenge for the death of a kinsperson or for the theft of a woman was the primary motive. Disputes over women were more frequent than disputes over resource sites or extractive resources. The fur trade led to hostilities with the Cree and Chipewyan.

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